Enteng Kabisote 10: Enteng on Sunset Boulevard
One hundred years of cinema and this is how far we've come, folks. Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers is a film that much more stringently follows its Mad Libs-like formula for the past 7 or so films: Enteng Kabisote, hero of Engkantasya, is living a relatively humdrum, normal life until (insert villain played by respectable character actor) hatches an evil plan to (insert nefarious plan here) based on (insert pop culture reference relevant only to the past two years). Meanwhile he has to deal with (insert random dramatic, domestic situation) with his (children/wife). His wife, by the way, is played by (insert pretty actress here). He then sets out to defeat the villain via (insert a parody of whatever fantasy/super hero movie is popular at the time).
Much has been said about how the film 1) relies on the same old tropes and geriatric jokes 2) is based on an almost trivial domestic conflict that is magnified to ludicrous proportions (complete with April Boy Regino) 3) devolves the character of Enteng from an everyman to a hollow shell of the character he was and how 4) the plot is neither entertaining or engaging, hiding that fact with shiny graphics and special effects. I agree with all those ideas, but during my viewing of Enteng Kabisote 10, I was fascinated by one thing. Enteng Kabisote's staleness is based on the things that makes a movie a movie: its plot, its characters, its basic structure. The film looks like it was made in 2006 because of the way it repeats these ideas. But thanks to its recursiveness, there's a kind of self awareness in the film that drew me in. Interpreting it as a self-critique of what it has become softened the blow a bit. This self awareness may not be intentional, and it doesn't make the film any less bad, but it did keep me going for the next 110 minutes. Now hear me out here, because this is a loopy theory.
(If you don't want to read this, skip to the asterisks.)
The Enteng Kabisote of this movie is not (just) the Enteng of previous films; in my interpretation, in the first half of the film, he is the embodiment of the Enteng Kabisote films as a whole. Previously he was a normal, middle aged guy like everyone else. But now he's a grandpa, his family (representing the things that made Okay Ka Fairy Ko so successful) has mostly left him behind and moved on. he's fighting for relevance in a world that doesn't seem to find him relevant anymore., much like how this film series is struggling to find relevance in a filmic landscape that has moved on from gaudy comedies like his. It's a crude Pinoy Sunset Boulevard in idea and tone without the death and insanity. In fact, most of the first act of the movie feels like a swan song, with the implication that this is the time we will see this hapless hero.
Enteng tries to be hip and relevant again, engaging in ideas grounded in the future (like robotics), but the effect is pretty much like Hillary Clinton telling millennial voters to "Pokemon Go-To-The-Polls": it's all cringey and awkward. And at this point we realize that Enteng, the character, and Enteng, the film series, is in the wrong. After getting into an argument with his son (with the implication that he's out of touch and his son is the one who knows what's best for the child,) he goes on a trip for soul searching.
This level of soul searching is a rarity in the Enteng Kabisote film series with its level of self-contemplation and assessment. Of course all this contemplation is still very shallow, but it's a step forward. He finds allies (The Abangers, obviously a parody of the Marvel super-team) who can help him, which to me symbolized radical ideas of change. Lets keep in mind that these characters were outcasts in Engkantasya because of what they were (paralleling the inability of the Enteng series to accept new ideas and change).
By the time the climax rolls around, Enteng realizes that it is he who has to change to fight his enemies. He transforms to the tune of Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko, whose groove brings reminiscences of the 70s, better times when TVJ were at the peak of their popularity. He collaborates with his son and the Abangers instead of antagonizing them. Their number (7 Abangers and 1 son) equals eight... much like the MMFF has eight films. In this moment, Enteng Kabisote the film series is admitting it has lost touch and wants to move forward with the times.
At this point in the climax, the roles change. While Enteng becomes the embodiment of what the Enteng series wants to be, Kwek Kwek, the antagonist, now embodies what the Enteng series has become - and its easy to see the parallels here. He's based on a worn out meme (Tatlong Bibe), his plan for domination is to target kids with mobile gaming (the lowest form of gaming entertainment), and his plan is to use the Abangers' powers for his own ends. The two fight and Enteng wins, of course. We then come to the true tragedy of this movie: everything returns to the status quo. The movie fades once again into irrelevance as the sequel hook makes a promise of more films to come - perhaps in the same mold as this one. Here, the film admits defeat. This is Enteng's "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup" moment.
That took me too long to write, and it was probably a waste of time. If you've reached this far, congratulations.
There is one remaining question that I haven't tackled in this analysis, and it's the question of "is this movie for kids?" Well, in a way, yes it is. Kids don't know any better, and the movie does throw out a few token moral lessons: listen to your parents, don't use technology too much. But at the same time, it's done with a tone of condescension, as if the movie was looking down on these kids: listen to your parents (because we're older, not necessarily because what we're saying is right); don't use technology too much (even though the person who says this was the one who didn't mind using the app in the first place.) The special effects are the cinematic equivalent of dangling a shiny toy in front of a baby's face. "Look baby, o, it's a toy! Ang ganda di ba? You like Pokemon di ba? O, Pokemon, o!"
Showing Enteng Kabisote to your kid is like feeding them day-old buffet food thrown out of the hotel. The management has scraped off the nastier, moldy parts, but hey, the food looks presentable: the cheese looks cheesy, and the cake icing is as pink as strawberry pie. It cost a lot to make, even though it probably contains a lot of crap. Your kid might get diarrhea, but it'll go away anyway. "At least," you think to yourself, "it's edible."
If you're comfortable with that thought, more power to you.